Wrongful Death Lawyers in Austin
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When a loved one has been the victim of a wrongful death, the families affected deserve justice. Our Austin wrongful death attorneys understand how devastating it can be for a family who has unexpectedly lost a loved one. A wrongful death is one that occurs as a result of negligence or purposeful action on behalf of another person or entity.
If your loved one died because of the actions of another individual, you may have a wrongful death claim under Texas law. This unfortunate circumstance may have brought about many questions about what to do next. An Austin wrongful death lawyer at Zinda Law Group can help you answer those questions and to file a claim.
Wrongful Death Defined
Wrongful death occurs when someone acts negligently or carelessly, resulting in the death of a person. The plaintiff case may be a family member of the deceased who acts on behalf of the deceased’s heirs.
Common causes of wrongful death are car accidents, drunk driving accidents, dangerous or defective products, child abuse, nursing home or elder abuse, construction of an unsafe structure or building, and negligent upkeep of premises (such as an apartment building or hotel pool).
When a loved one passes away unexpectedly, the family is unfortunately often left with many expenses. If there are children involved, they may be unable to support themselves or pay for their schooling. The family members or beneficiaries of the deceased generally file a lawsuit or claim in order to help with these tragic and unfortunate burdens.
There are a variety of types of wrongful death cases. Here are some of the most common ones:
Car and Truck Accidents
Car and truck accidents are a common cause of wrongful deaths. If a driver is acting negligently (e.g., drinking and driving, texting while driving), the driver may be liable.
When a patient dies as a result of their healthcare provider’s negligence, someone may be liable. If the doctor missteps during surgery, the doctor or hospital may be liable.
When a consumer dies as a result of a malfunctioning product, the manufacturer or distributor of the product may be liable for the wrongful death of the consumer.
If a loved one is killed because of an unsafe environment, several potential parties may be at fault. The property owner, the tenant, or the manager of the premises may be liable.
What to do After an Accidental Death
1. Report the Accident
You should call 9-1-1 so that a police officer can file and create a report. Also, you should report the accident to your insurance company.
2. Document the Accident
When a loved one dies, you should get the names of everyone involved. Find out the names of any witnesses and get their contact information. Also, find out the insurance company that insures any people, vehicles, or entities involved in the accident. When it is possible, it may be helpful for you to take pictures of the scene and the injuries.
3. Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney
If your loved one has died in an accident, finding the right lawyer can save you money, time, and stress. Your attorney should have a proven record for handling complex wrongful death cases and the ability and resources to investigate and try your case fully.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
There are four elements that the plaintiff must prove to establish wrongful death:
- Duty: The defendant owed a duty to the deceased;
- Breach: The defendant failed to comply with this duty in some way (e.g., by violating a law);
- Causation: The breach of this duty caused an accident that resulted in the death of the deceased;
- Damages: The plaintiff suffered damages from the injuries.
Determining Who is at Fault
It is not always immediately obvious who is at fault, and who is at fault may depend on the type of accident that occurred.
Car and Truck Accidents
In a car or truck accident, most often, it is the driver who is at fault. All drivers have a duty to drive safely. If they breached that duty (e.g., by driving while intoxicated), and if that breach causes the death of the diseased (e.g., by crashing into the car they were in), then the driver may be liable.
The car or truck manufacturer could also be at fault. They have a duty to create cars that are safe and comply with certain laws and regulations. If the manufacturer breaches that duty, and if that breach contributes to a death, then the manufacturer may be liable. For example, if the manufacturer produces a car with faulty brakes, which then hits the car of the deceased and leads to their death, that car maker would potentially be liable.
Other potentially liable parties include the employer of the driver (particularly for commercial truck drivers), the inspector of the vehicle, the entity who paves the road.
For medical malpractice cases, it is usually the doctor who is at fault. Doctors have a duty to provide a certain standard of care to the patient. If a doctor breaches that duty (e.g., leaves a medical tool inside the patient during surgery), and that breach results in death, the doctor may be liable. There are often many doctors involved, so it is important to determine which of the doctors are at fault.
When companies sell products to consumers, they have a duty to the consumer to provide safe products. If the product malfunctions and causes the death of another person, the manufacturer may have breached their duty and may be liable.
Owners and operators of properties have a duty to provide a safe environment for those who visit the property. If the owner or operator fails to maintain a safe environment and that unsafe premise results in death, the property owner or operator may be liable.
How to File a Claim
1. Contact an Attorney
Finding an experienced wrongful death lawyer can make the process much less stressful and costly. If your loved one has been involved in an accidental death, you should contact a lawyer before proceeding. Your lawyer will review all the information pertaining to your claim. This may include interviewing you about the accident and getting medical bills. If your attorney determines that you have a claim, they will file your claim.
The attorneys, any involved insurance companies, and claims adjusters will investigate the claim and evaluate the damage. They may consider how the death occurred, where it occurred, whether it was preventable, and any medical costs incurred as a result of the accident.
3. Case Settlement
Most cases are settled before reaching trial. Before a case can be settled, it is important to know what your case is worth. It can take a long time to get a fair settlement. Your lawyer can help you decide if and when to settle your case.
In the unlikely event that your case goes to trial, the judge will conduct the fact-finding by listening to testimony by witnesses and reviewing relevant documents and exhibits.
There are three main kinds of damages that a plaintiff may recover from a wrongful death case.
Economic damages are losses that can be calculated in terms of dollars and cents with reasonable precision.
Medical expenses are recoverable economic damages. This may include emergency room visits, ambulance or helicopter transportation, prescription drug costs, surgery expenses, rehabilitation or therapy expenses, and any other medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident.
It also includes any financial support that the deceased would have provided the plaintiff during a typical life expectancy. Most often, this is the deceased’s potential earnings and wages. Lost benefits, such as pensions or insurance, are also recoverable.
Non-Economic (Intangible) Damages
Non-economic or intangible damages are usually given to compensate for any psychological harm. You may be able to receive compensation for suffering, loss of companionship, loss of love, and loss of care. Calculating and predicting the value that will be given to your intangible damages is difficult. When a loved one dies, it is not uncommon for six- or even seven-figure awards to be given.
Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are designed to punish the defendant in cases of serious wrongdoing. For example, if the driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident, punitive damages may be awarded.
Legal Time Limits
After an accident occurs, the plaintiff has a limited time to file a lawsuit. This time limit is called the “statute of limitations.” The statute of limitations for wrongful death cases varies by state, but it is typically two years unless the case falls into one of the exceptions. These exceptions include the following:
- The deceased is a minor
- The negligence of defendants was not known during those two years
- A mental or physical impairment of the plaintiff prevented them from filing a claim during those two years
- Fraudulent activity was involved
Cases Involving Children
In child wrongful death cases, the child’s parent or guardian may file a claim on the child’s behalf. That person is called the “next friend.” While typically the guardian acts as a next friend, anyone may stand in as one.
Seek the Help of a Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
Zinda Law Group may be able to help you to obtain financial compensation for the expenses associated with death such as medical and funeral bills, loss of income, lost insurance benefits, loss of inheritance, and pain and suffering. It is very important to your case that you retain the services of a knowledgeable and compassionate Austin wrongful death lawyer who can help you and your family through this difficult time.
Our wrongful death lawyers understand that you are mourning your loved one and adjusting to life without them. We believe that with our legal help, you can not only obtain financial compensation but can rest easy knowing that the responsible party has been held accountable. Our Austin wrongful death attorneys treat each case equally and no matter the size of your case, you will work directly with a lawyer.
At Zinda Law Group of Austin, we are dedicated to our clients and ensuring that their rights are protected. And as our client, you will pay nothing unless we can win your case. If you believe you may have a wrongful death claim, call (800) 863-5312 or chat us for a free case evaluation.
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